Asking Salary Range Before Traveling Cross-Country for Job Interview?
August 12, 2014 8:29 AM   Subscribe

After two hour-long telephone interviews with the hiring manager at a potential new employer, they said they want me to fly out to the west coast for a day-long interview, at their expense. However, because this would necessitate taking several days off work and the hassle of traveling cross-country, I'd like to get an idea of their salary range before accepting the offer to come interview. Is this appropriate?

I'm not actively seeking new work, just periodically sending out resumes when I see intriguing roles. This new job would be quite a departure for me, but I've been doing the same thing for nearly 10 years and wouldn't mind shaking up the routine. However, it would mean moving the family from the east coast to northern California (and the associated higher cost of living). The wife and I have done the research and math, and we've come to an agreement on the minimum salary that would be doable for us to consider making the move. However, because the new company is a startup and the role is very specialized, there is not a lot of useful salary data out there for me to compare and get an idea of what kind of compensation might be offered. I really don't want to waste 3 days of annual leave at my current job to interview for a position that would ultimately offer me a salary far below what I would consider livable, so it it seems to make sense to at least have a preliminary discussion about the issue before traveling for the interview -- but everyone I've informally surveyed says this is a big no-no, that salary should only be discussed after an offer is made. However, I would think it would be in the employer's interest to know if I'm out of their price range at the get-go. What does the hive-mind think?
posted by Creamroller to Work & Money (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Dear Hiring Manager,
Thanks so much for the invitation to fly out for an extended interview - I enjoyed our phone call and am very much interested in meeting face to face.

Before committing to taking several days off of work at my current job to do this, however, I'd like a sense of the salary range of the position that we'll discuss. Is that something you can offer at this time?

Love you forever,
posted by entropone at 8:36 AM on August 12, 2014 [21 favorites]

"Before taking any more of my time or your time..."
posted by alms at 8:42 AM on August 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

What entropone said. They're trying (possibly not intentionally) to woo you, and that means treating you to a nice day and getting you thinking seriously Where will I live when I take this job? etc. Then, when the salary is just a little lower than you like, you're thinking But I really like the people, and I've spent all this time thinking about where to live and all that...
posted by Etrigan at 8:45 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree. It would be a waste of both your time if you wouldn't consider the job based on salary. You can ask for a range rather than a specific salary to try to avoid an unseemly question.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:45 AM on August 12, 2014

The popular Ask A Manager blog has touched on this many times:

Can I ask about salary before flying out of state for a job interview?

In a long interview process, can I ask about salary?

Can I ask about salary range before accepting an interview?

Personally, I would absolutely ask.
posted by rada at 8:46 AM on August 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I won't even do an hour-long phone screen without a salary range. You should absolutely know what you're getting into before you fly cross-country.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:52 AM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sure, just be prepared to discuss what salary you're looking for as well.
posted by grouse at 8:52 AM on August 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

They really, really don't want to extend an offer and for you to reject it. That wastes time and money, makes their recruiter look like an idiot, and makes everyone feel bad. Seriously, from a company's point of view that's one of the worst possible outcomes. So yes, this is totally appropriate.
posted by miyabo at 9:35 AM on August 12, 2014

Yes, you should ask and frame it as trying to avoid having them pay for your trip if the position isn't a right fit. But if you bring it up, you may need to be prepared to disclose your own range. I'd definitely try to get them to disclose first though. I was in very similar situation you describe and I felt like, after one phone interview, flying to the opposite coast was a big next step. I politely told them I'd like to do another phone interview because I had more questions about the company and the position. They seemed, if anything, to like how carefully I was considering the position. And it made me feel a lot better before going all the way to California for a job interview.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:10 AM on August 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh yes, DO ask. There's no way I'd go through all of that without assuring that the job would pay me enough. Also ask about relocation assistance, because that's something that should be included.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:28 PM on August 12, 2014

Absolutely ask. I wouldn't have given them 2 hours for the first interview without knowing we were talking about something that wasn't going to be a non-starter in the first place.
posted by kjs3 at 4:23 PM on August 12, 2014

You should definitely ask. If they have a problem with that, there's something wrong with them, not you.
posted by learnsome at 4:32 PM on August 12, 2014

Ask away. I'm head of HR at my company, and I don't bat an eyelash at this question. I've also found it to be quite common. From my perspective, you're saving us all time and money to ask for a ballpark in advance and decide if you're interested. Employees that can prioritize, are willing to ask questions, and don't like to waste time and money are employees I'd want to hire.

I think AppleTurnover's frame above is pitch-perfect.
posted by involution at 7:34 PM on August 12, 2014

Definitely ask.

Also, if they flip it around and ask what you're expecting then be sure to add 10-20% to what you think is realistic. Worst-case they'll negotiate you down, best-case you make more than you expected. After all, you don't need the job, you're doing them a favour if you accept.
posted by dickasso at 9:39 AM on August 13, 2014

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